Report released on RNC’s arrest of autistic teen

Published on March 31, 2014
Diane Spurrell and her son Dane Spurrell are shown with the transcripts and other documents from the complaint over Dane’s 2009 arrest, which is still before the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary Public Complaints Commission. — File photo by Barb Sweet/The Telegram

An adjudicator's decision has been released for a complaint filed with the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary Public Complaints Commission by the mother of an autistic teen arrested in 2009.

In his report, John McGrath takes to task the officers who dealt with Dane Spurrell of Mount Pearl. Spurrell was 18 years old when he was arrested in April of 2009 for obstructing officers after his autism was mistaken for public intoxication as he was walking home from a video store. He was later taken to the St. John’s Lockup. Multiple requests to call his family were denied.

Const. Lisa Harris — formerly known as Lisa Puddicombe — has been found guilty of breaching five RNC regulations. She was the first officer to come in contact with Spurrell.

Those breaches are for arresting and detaining Spurrell without sufficient cause, being discourteous towards him, neglecting to promptly and diligently perform officer duties, acting contrary to the RNC policy and procedures manual, and failing to obey RNC regulations, orders and rules concerning policy and procedure.

McGrath said in the report Harris failed to fully recognize Spurrell’s right to contact his family and that even though she admitted to suspecting he had a medical condition — specifically, impaired vision — Harris failed to respond appropriately in checking to see what medical conditions Spurrell had.

McGrath found Const. Rodney Priddle guilty of breaching three regulations —  arresting and detaining without sufficient cause, being discourteous, and neglecting to promptly and diligently perform officer duties. Priddle arrived on the scene approximately 10 minutes after Harris, according to the report.

The release of the decision comes close to three years after proceedings to hear the complaint first got underway.

A hearing date to determine penalties has not been set.

For more on this story, read Tuesday’s edition of The Telegram or check www.thetelegram.com.